This weekend Big Andy, PADI Dive Master, was guiding Natalia, Rosemarie, Michael, Penglee and Su Huan. Armand, my PADI Dive Master Trainee was guiding Benth, Rhonda and Michael. Rhonda and Michael also did a refresher course with Armand last week at Outram Secondary School’s pool – click here to find out what is involved in a PADI Scuba Review Course. I was doing PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Course with Vincent and his buddies Moagen, Amy and another Vincent, followed. And Mitchel joined us as a snorkeller for the weekend.
We departed from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal Friday night and boarded the MV Seaborne. Dinner was served and everyone chatted about Saturday’s diving adventure. Of course, sleeping is on board, so those who had had a hetic week at work, quietly slipped into their cabins for an early well deserved rest.
I had chartered the MV Seaborne and the plan was to do a few dives around Tioman and go to the Scorpion Wreck for one afternoon day dive and one night dive. The Scorpion Wreck seems to have a few names along with Rompin Wreck and Timur Wreck. Well, that’s what I thought before we got there. The MV Seaborne has GPS marks for a few wrecks around the same area. It turns out there are actually 3 different wrecks.
After completing our reef dives, we dived the nearest wreck to Tioman first, which was about 20 nautical miles away and it was the Rompin wreck, a mid sized wreck sitting at 26 metres to the bottom and 20 metres at the top. It is upright with prop and rudder intact. It looks to be a vessel that had the wheelhouse at the bow. Perhaps a tug or cable laying ship or commercial dive boat was my first thoughts. But big Andy later said it was to narrow for a commercial dive or tug boat, but it did have a large winch at the stern and not much else forward…room for cable. Anyway, who knows what it was.
The Rompin Wreck had lots to see and the squid fisherman have made it their home with ropes and lines everywhere, they even have fish attractant lines with branches tied into them. The wreck was covered in concrete blocks the fisherman have been dropping as anchors for the longest time, I must have counted 20 or more.
The fish life was excellent with schooling trevally, 6 porcupine fish at the bow, several bamboo sharks, tuna schools and a lot of small damsels everywhere. Being a deep dive, it was short at 30 minutes. With everyone back onboard and smiling we headed to the next wreck 20 minutes away.
When we got to the site, there was another fishing boat there. A quick discussion between the two captains confirmed they were tied directly on the wreck. I decided to take Andy for a recon mission, we all know Andy can’t resist a wreck dive. We were dropped at the line the fisherman were using and down we went to the top of the wreck at 14 metres. The bottom was no more than 20 metres. This vessel is upside down and had two small props intact. As Andy and I did our diving we noticed 5-6 bamboo sharks, some snapper and many of the normal schooling fish. It looked familiar to me and Andy and I confirmed it was the Scorpion Wreck. Good for a shallow quick night dive I thought.
The night dive was quickly cancelled once we surfaced and noticed that during the 15 minutes Andy and I were on the wreck, the seas and wind had picked up a lot. A 2-4 metres swell greeted up on the surface which meant another long slow night back towards Singapore.
We did a quick check of the Timor Wreck to confirm on the GPS and it was there but no chance to dive it though.
The boys started the BBQ early as we all sat back and relaxed.
Prior to the wrecks, we dived Bahara Rock, Rengis and Chebeh. Visibility this weekend around Tioman was once again not so hot. But that did not seem to worry the divers too much, only Armand, Andy and I were complaining.
I must tell you about Saturday’s first morning reef dive at Bahara Rock. It was interesting, in a funny way. So many things did not go so well for many people; leaking o-rings draining tanks to 100 bar overnight, two new sets of regs put together with the hoses not in the right ports, broken fins straps, giant strides that ending up being faceplants, lost fins and at least half the divers could not decend due to perceived under weighting.
Dive Tip. When descending do not fin up and do not breath in. You need to exhale all the air out of your lungs and keep your feet still. Once underwater a metre or so, take a short sharp breath and exhale again. Then at this point you can turn over and fin down head first adjusting your buoyancy along the way.
Thankfully we had calm seas and little to no current on every dive, but the suspended particles limited the viz to less then 10 metres. Rengis was the best of the three reefs, with a turtle and a blacktip shark sighted. It was also covered with small fish and at one point of the dive, I noticed all these sergeant fish gathered in one area. After closer inspection I could see someone had lost their noodles overboard and the fish were having a free feed.
I managed to grab some noodles with my gloved hand between the staghorn coral and one long strand was chomped bite by bite by one sergeant fish. Each bite brought him closer to my fingers. No worries they are tiny fish. He stopped chomping and I dropped the rest of the knotted noddles and this created a feeding frenzy. I did this a few more times whilst Amy took a couple of photos.
I was surprised by the divers in another group from another dive shop in Singapore. The guide kept cutting in front of my group stopping and standing in the sand waiting for his divers, the divers that were there with him also copied him and stood in the sand some stood in the stag horn coral and when it was time to move on finned and broke a big section of coral. The others including the guide created massive sand storms.
I must have seen this happen three times and the guide did nothing about it. I slowed down and let these clowns get further in front. I turned around to check my divers and found I had one extra and he was wearing a Singapore dive shop branded wetsuit. I asked him using hand signals where his buddy was and he just shrugged his shoulders. We caught up with his group who were doing a safety stop. I asked again, if that was his group and he just swam off. I guess it was. They did not even know he was gone and he was following me for at least 5 minutes that I knew of.
Cehbeh viz was maybe 8 metres and we did the deep dive to 30 metres and once we passed 26 metres the temperature felt like it dropped 10 degrees. I wear a 5mm wetsuit and was still cold, so we stayed at 30 metres for 10 minutes before heading shallow. I felt sorry for Moagen who was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
Drift dive done, deep dive done and wreck dive done with Vincent, so Sunday was planned for fishID at Dolly Parton and navigation at Jack Rock.
Dolly Parton is a dive site that is two large hump shape islands which are part of the Tinga Island group. What an amazing Sunday dive. We saw lobsters (3 huge ones), sea snakes, a turtle and one large grouper just swam past my group like we were not there. It swam right past my mask and scared the you know what out of me. Vincent was tugging madly on my fin to tell me, but he was a little late for my close encounter. This monster could have easily fit my head and shoulders into its huge mouth. We also saw pipe fish, snapper and a curious school of 4-6 rabbit fish that followed us most of the dive.
I was thinking if Dolly Parton was this good, Jack Rock can only be better. The MV Seaborne has a unique approach to diving Jack Rock when other dive boats are not around. The boat boys lasso a rope around the rock and tie off, so essentially the MV Seaborne gets safely tied onto Jack Rock. This made the entry and exit easy.
Andy’s group went first, followed by Armand and then my group. The viz was the best we had seen all weekend. Go figure that? Better viz at Jack Rock than Tioman? The plan was to find some sharks to show my divers. So we swam straight down to 20 metres and found Andy’s group looking at a shark and lobster in the same crack under some rocks, awesome. We continued on and found 4 more sharks, one was about 80cm long and was lying sideways. Snap, snap!
My divers were around 100bar, so I headed up to 12 metres to look for macro. Again not disappointed. I pointed out a small shrimp, small funeral Nudi, several pipe fish. The schooling fish life was also excellent, golden trevally and other fish everywhere. Most importantly there was no sign of cujo, the killer trigger fish.
Everyone was onboard beaming after the morning’s great dives. The MV Seaborne headed south. The boat boys fired up the BBQ again because there was a lot of food left over and not cooked from the BBQ the night before. About 4-5 people had felt the effects of the rough seas Saturday night and went to bed early. Sweet, two BBQ’s in one weekend, what could top that?
I am happy to report that Armand did really well looking after his three divers. He guided them nicely, showed them around and even dealt with a broken ascent line on the wreck. He got to 6 metres to find the rest of the rope was gone, completed the safety stop, deployed his SMB and drifted everyone back to the boat safely. Another great Dive Master in the making.
And congratulations to Vincent, a new PADI Advanced Open Water Diver.
As the saloon floods with the smoke from the BBQ, I decided that I have written enough, but I need a “Glenda’s tip”.
Ladies don’t worry about bringing a hairdryer, it is “all natural” on a live-on-board boat. And even if you do style your hair, the wind will unstyle it for you anyway. So consider headbands, clips or tying your hair up for the sophisticated post dive look.
Cheers – Gary
Underwater photos were taken by the writer of this Latest News. Thanks to Rhonda and Natalia for the use of your photos
Additional photos may be viewed on our Facebook page here – 27 to 29 July 2012, MV Seaborne-AOW, Rec Diving & DMT